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Frida Space

Mars 2020 Landing Site Selection

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So, I was wondering why this wasn't made into any press release or stuff like that, but from Aug 4th to Aug 6th some 150 scientists met in Monrovia, CA, to discuss the Mars 2020 rover landing site. From a list of approx. 21 sites (almost 30 if you include some additions), scientists selected 8 sites:

1. Jezero Crater; 2. Columbia Hills; 3. NE Syrtis Major Planum; 4. Eberswalde Crater; 5. SW Melas Chasma; 6. Nili Fossae Trough; 7. Nili Fossae Carbonate; 8. Mawrth Vallis.

marte.PNG

Personally, I'm rooting for Eberswalde crater, because of its amazing and detailed delta structure. Also, from what I understood Jezero Crater is kinda rough for navigation. Also, only Eberswalde and the two Nili Fossae sites don't require the Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) system, a new EDL technology which hasn't been approved yet. Also, Mawrth Vallis is an ExoMars rover landing site candidate too.

Just some fast facts on the mission: final 4 landing sites selected in Jan 2017 and final landing site (+ backup) in Jul 2018. Launch in Jul/Aug 2020, arrival and landing in Feb 2021. EDL same as Curiosity (powered descent, skycrane). Then, in 1.5 years it will traverse up to 20 km and acquire a minimum of 20 samples to be returned to Earth on a future, yet to be approved mission. The only improvements over Curiosity are:

- tougher wheels (finally!)

- higher speed (from Curiosity's 12 m/hr to up to 60-80 m/hr)

- improved, color engineering cameras

- a camera pointed upwards toward the parachute during descent

- higher efficiency due to new planning techniques (from Curiosity's 50% to 80-95%, not entirely sure on what this means exactly)

Now onto the site selection itself. The engineering constraints are:

- near-equatorial sites (+/- 30 degrees of latitude)

- >-500 m MOLA

- any >100 m hill has to be at least 1000 m away

- 16x14 landing ellipse

- probability of hitting a >55 cm high rock has to be <0.5%

- slopes <25°

Scientific constraints/mission objectives:

- the landing site must offer a habitable past enviroment

- the landing site must offer a high probability of preserving biosignatures

- the landing site must offer a variety, quality and quantity of samples sufficient to answer key astrobiology/planetary evolution questions, if and when they are returned to Earth

These are some interesting slides from the presentations:

Engineering data:

engineering_1.png

engineering_2.png

Eberswalde

eberswalde_1.png

eberswalde_2.jpg

eberswalde_3.png

Jezero Crater

jezero.pngjezero_2.pngjezero_3.png

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I'm rooting for Galle crater because that is, perhaps, the happiest crater anybody has ever seen. If you land there, you will be happy, too!

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A new Curiosity? Awesome!

We can remake it ... Stronger ... Faster ... Better.

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A new Curiosity? Awesome!

We can remake it ... Stronger ... Faster ... Better.

Hopefully they don't try to land with an HL-10 lifting body.

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SW Melas Chasma seems like a really good choice for Mars 2020. Rough terrain or not, being able to get information on one of the biggest mysteries of Mars (life on Mars), along with one of its most obvious features (The massive Valles Marineris canyon, which is also volcanic) would be a massive benefit.

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How about we stop sending robots and actually send people?

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How about we stop sending robots and actually send people?

Risk reward. Not to mention the technology needed for a rover mission exists and has been proven time and time again. Most of which cannot be said of a manned mission.

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Risk reward. Not to mention the technology needed for a rover mission exists and has been proven time and time again. Most of which cannot be said of a manned mission.
Manned missions have huge advantages. Men and/or women can get science a rover takes the month to do in a week. Men have FEAR, which robots will never have. The fear of us makes us able to avoid possibly dangerous things like a cliff or a steep hill. Oh, and about the technology thing, we had the stuff to do it in the 80s, but sadly NASA never got enough funding to do it.

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It wasn't a question of funding. They could have implemented Mars Direct for about $55 billion, which - spread over 10 years - was doable with the current budget. The reason it was rejected was that it wouldn't require use of the ISS or a Moon base, and the people who had invested in those projects feared they'd lose their funding. Also, NASA as a whole feared investing itself into a single project because its directives change every presidential term.

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It wasn't a question of funding. They could have implemented Mars Direct for about $55 billion, which - spread over 10 years - was doable with the current budget. The reason it was rejected was that it wouldn't require use of the ISS or a Moon base, and the people who had invested in those projects feared they'd lose their funding. Also, NASA as a whole feared investing itself into a single project because its directives change every presidential term.

It was also criticized for being incredibly liberal with its mass estimates- this resulted in the Design Reference Mission/Mars Semi-Direct, which has been modified over the years to changing presidential terms and NASA administration. Honestly, a Direct-to-Mars Mission is unlikely- NASA made their own study, stating that it would take 10 years of no SLS launches or manned BEO missions (politically horrible for a program criticized for not having payloads) to land on Mars, never mind followup missions (though the mission is bigger than Zubrin's Mars Direct).

Sucking money from other programs was a much bigger problem politically when Mars Direct was proposed- not as much now.

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Ultimately all 8 of the finalist sites are worthwhile and interesting targets, but personally I'd like to see them go for one of the Nili Fossae sites. Really rugged terrain with known mineral deposits and likely well exposed strata. We almost sent Curiosity there, and instead sent it to a boring area with nothing but boring rocks for it to be sarcastic about. Jerezo and Syrtis Major are also interesting targets, and all four of those sites are in one of the younger areas of the planet.

As an aside, it irks me somewhat that none of the official maps I've seen for these "finalist" landing sites include locations of the Soviet Mars landers. Instead they only show those from the U.S. and occasionally Beagle 2 (which is on the eastern side of Isidis Planitia, near the cluster of 4 sites).

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Another reason for not sending people is the extremely short time they can spend on the surface. Rovers can trundle around for months and years, allowing mission controllers to think, plan, analyse, change plans and get the maximum out of the hardware they send. Manned missions have to stick to very tight schedules, and if something interesting crops up then something else has to be scrubbed from the schedule to make time for it.

Humans on Mars would also have a very limited range, and though they could explore within that range more efficiently they couldn't learn very much more than a rover could learn - and the rover could move on and explore many, many more sites. Further more, a human crew would have to spend days re-adapting to gravity after months at zero G, and that is time deducted from an already short time on the surface. No human crew could cover the amount of ground Curiosity has covered so far, and NOTHING like the ground Spirit and Opportunity covered. Men in a few days can get data a rover takes months to get - but the rover can be there for years.

As for the intelligence of a human explorer - well how is he more intelligent than the team of researchers controlling the rover?

Finally: if a rover goes wrong a few jobs are lost. But if a human dies, entire space programmes are put in danger. During the space-race governments were prepared to take the risk that brave explorers would be lost, but they are a lot more risk-averse these days and there are far more politicians who would use a catastrophe as an excuse to shut down space spending.

Maybe this could be changed by the march of progress, but I suspect that rover technology will improve faster than the technology to send people to Mars, more cheaply, and reaping more science per mission.

I believe that the only reason to go to Mars is to STAY on Mars: scratching the surface For Science is a very poor reason.

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Humans on Mars would also have a very limited range

Just take a buggy with you. The moon buggies travelled quite some distance in those few days they were there.

As for the intelligence of a human explorer - well how is he more intelligent than the team of researchers controlling the rover?

There is a reason manned space flight is still a thing - a human that can tell about its experiences, that can improvise, than can feel, do tactile things, it is all very different from a rover. Rovers are certainly very useful devices, but they pale in comparison to a human just picking up a rock and fumbling about. And yes, humans have massive drawbacks too. It is rather annoying that these pesky astronauts demand a continuous supply of oxygen. Spoiled brats :D

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Humans on Mars would also have a very limited range, and though they could explore within that range more efficiently they couldn't learn very much more than a rover could learn - and the rover could move on and explore many, many more sites. Further more, a human crew would have to spend days re-adapting to gravity after months at zero G, and that is time deducted from an already short time on the surface. No human crew could cover the amount of ground Curiosity has covered so far, and NOTHING like the ground Spirit and Opportunity covered. Men in a few days can get data a rover takes months to get - but the rover can be there for years.

Opportunity has covered 42 kilometers so far. Impressive for a rover, but a human crew with an airtight buggy and a few months (if not years) could do a lot better in a fraction of the time.

As for gravity, there are a number of ways we could simulate it during the transit, such as using the fuel tank as a counterweight to create centrifugal gravity.

As for the intelligence of a human explorer - well how is he more intelligent than the team of researchers controlling the rover?

Maybe not, but they'd be able to make decisions on the fly. If something goes wrong with an unmanned rover, it would be fifteen minutes before the controllers even realized something was wrong. Much more to decide on a course of action and send the command back.

Finally: if a rover goes wrong a few jobs are lost. But if a human dies, entire space programmes are put in danger. During the space-race governments were prepared to take the risk that brave explorers would be lost, but they are a lot more risk-averse these days and there are far more politicians who would use a catastrophe as an excuse to shut down space spending.

I'd say we need to take more risks in today's age. We need more heroes, people willing to risk themselves to advance human frontiers. Sure, the politicians might not be fond of the idea, but so what? If the demand for a manned Mars mission is high enough, and a realistic possibility of one in the near future existed, I think they'd have no choice but to go with it.

Maybe this could be changed by the march of progress, but I suspect that rover technology will improve faster than the technology to send people to Mars, more cheaply, and reaping more science per mission.

I believe that the only reason to go to Mars is to STAY on Mars: scratching the surface For Science is a very poor reason.

As I said above, the excitement and inspiration generated by a manned mission would be a much greater benefit than any science they gather. People on Mars is a lot more interesting than another drone, no matter how advanced the drone is.

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Well, before sending a human on Mars, we would need to do a bunch of supply drop launch before hand anyway. So might as well send some more drones up there to prepare for a human landing. More drones = more chance for someone like Mark Watney to survive.

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Opportunity has covered 42 kilometers so far. Impressive for a rover, but a human crew with an airtight buggy and a few months (if not years) could do a lot better in a fraction of the time.

No. The rover is still limited by sticking within a safe range around the MAV. The LRVs needed to stay within walking distance of the LM, so that if it broke down, rolled over, or got stuck, the astronauts still had enough reserves to walk back. A manned Mars rover could only venture further away if there was a second rover to rescue the crew. Otherwise, it would have the same safety range limitation as the old LRV.

Also, speed (distance/time) is only relevant if you have a time limit. Unmanned rovers don't have such a limit, so their exploration speed and distance covered is irrelevant. Who cares whether you cover 42 km in one hour or in one year when there is no rush. Mars rocks aren't going anywhere, and going slow has the advantage of a more thorough exploration.

As for gravity, there are a number of ways we could simulate it during the transit, such as using the fuel tank as a counterweight to create centrifugal gravity.

Simulating gravity only complexifies the mission and makes it less likely to fly. The ISS has proven that it's perfectly possible to live and work in microgravity for the duration of a Mars mission with proper exercice and medication.

Maybe not, but they'd be able to make decisions on the fly. If something goes wrong with an unmanned rover, it would be fifteen minutes before the controllers even realized something was wrong. Much more to decide on a course of action and send the command back.

Who cares really? What difference does it make if it takes 15 minutes to communicate with the rover? Again, there is no rush. It makes no sense to spend 100 times more on a mission to gain an operational reactivity that isn't required.

I'd say we need to take more risks in today's age. We need more heroes, people willing to risk themselves to advance human frontiers. Sure, the politicians might not be fond of the idea, but so what?

So what, other than the fact that the politicians are the ones who are going to decide whether it happens or not. Politics and economy are the only things that you need. The technology details are trivial in comparison.

If the demand for a manned Mars mission is high enough, and a realistic possibility of one in the near future existed, I think they'd have no choice but to go with it.

But that demand doesn't exist. Joe Public doesn't even know that there is an ISS with people on it. Joe Public thinks that NASA is too expensive and that it's only purpose is to hide the alien invasion.

As I said above, the excitement and inspiration generated by a manned mission would be a much greater benefit than any science they gather. People on Mars is a lot more interesting than another drone, no matter how advanced the drone is.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid that the excitement and inspiration these days would only last a couple of days on Twitter or Facebook and people would switch back to the watching the Kardashians and football.

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Cultural remark to the landing site Mawrth: This would conflict with the story of "The Martian". But of course this should not be a point in the decision process.

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Some other slides on the Return Mission I thought might be interesting:

image.png

image.png

image.png

image.png

image.png

Acronyms used:

- SRL: sample return lander

- MAV: Mars ascent vehicle

- EEV: Earth entry vehicle

Edited by Frida Space

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My favorite has always been Noctis Labyrinthus because of its frequent low lying fogs:

Clouds_Noctis_Viking_01.gif

lFvLrgQ.jpg

Marineris%20fog-thumb-570x738-127871.jpg

Bob Clark

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I'm puzzled why NASA seems so focused on ground rovers for Mars. I know the atmosphere there is around 100 times thinner than that of Earth, but why not use airborne drones?... as in balloon drones? Having such low gravity to start with, it wouldn't take much for a balloon drone to attain neutral buoyancy - even a drone of significant weight. As for propulsion, between the atmosphere and low gravity, how about compressed air? It wouldn't take much. A simple on-board electric powered compressor could use Mars own atmosphere for the 'fuel'. Just imagine where something like that could go.

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No. The rover is still limited by sticking within a safe range around the MAV. The LRVs needed to stay within walking distance of the LM, so that if it broke down, rolled over, or got stuck, the astronauts still had enough reserves to walk back. A manned Mars rover could only venture further away if there was a second rover to rescue the crew. Otherwise, it would have the same safety range limitation as the old LRV.

Then send two rovers.

Also, speed (distance/time) is only relevant if you have a time limit. Unmanned rovers don't have such a limit, so their exploration speed and distance covered is irrelevant. Who cares whether you cover 42 km in one hour or in one year when there is no rush. Mars rocks aren't going anywhere, and going slow has the advantage of a more thorough exploration.

Sure, we don't need to rush through things. But if we send astronauts to Mars, they'll probably be there for a good eighteen months. That's plenty of time to cover a lot of ground.

Simulating gravity only complexifies the mission and makes it less likely to fly. The ISS has proven that it's perfectly possible to live and work in microgravity for the duration of a Mars mission with proper exercice and medication.

Then what's the problem? If we don't need to worry about artificial gravity, that's another problem we can check off the list.

Who cares really? What difference does it make if it takes 15 minutes to communicate with the rover? Again, there is no rush. It makes no sense to spend 100 times more on a mission to gain an operational reactivity that isn't required.

As I said, the real benefit would be the inspiration value. The science, while also great, would just be a bonus.

So what, other than the fact that the politicians are the ones who are going to decide whether it happens or not. Politics and economy are the only things that you need. The technology details are trivial in comparison.

You cut one of my comments in half and thus removed the context. I said that public pressure and excitement would push them to do it.

But that demand doesn't exist. Joe Public doesn't even know that there is an ISS with people on it. Joe Public thinks that NASA is too expensive and that it's only purpose is to hide the alien invasion.

Then let's set things straight. Involve the public with every aspect of the mission: the astronaut selection process, picking the landing site, the construction of the hardware, etc. Educate people. Yeah, the Flat Earth Society will keep screaming fraud, but people (well, most of them) are more reasonable than we give them credit for. We just need to show them what we're doing, why we're doing it, and where it will lead. People will listen.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid that the excitement and inspiration these days would only last a couple of days on Twitter or Facebook and people would switch back to the watching the Kardashians and football.

I'm sure it will come and go in waves. The interest will flare up and down between each milestone: the launch, entering Mars orbit, landing, etc. But all the media coverage and some NASA outreach programs will make sure the public never forgets what's happening. Chris Hadfield went viral singing a David Bowie song on the ISS. Imagine two years of live tweets, video messages, and more from the surface of Mars!

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Let's not make this into a manned vs unmanned thread. There will be a time for a manned mission, but it'll be at least a decade after 2020.

I'm really interested in the sample return aspect, though it's pretty weird that they use the 2020 rover to store samples for a later mission.

Wouldn't it be simpler to do sample collection and MAV in a single mission? I suppose that would limit the amount of science instruments though.

I'm puzzled why NASA seems so focused on ground rovers for Mars. I know the atmosphere there is around 100 times thinner than that of Earth, but why not use airborne drones?... as in balloon drones? Having such low gravity to start with, it wouldn't take much for a balloon drone to attain neutral buoyancy - even a drone of significant weight. As for propulsion, between the atmosphere and low gravity, how about compressed air? It wouldn't take much. A simple on-board electric powered compressor could use Mars own atmosphere for the 'fuel'. Just imagine where something like that could go.

I suppose the balloon would have to be very big, considering the thin atmosphere. It's a much bigger factor than the low gravity.

It could be done, but the payload would have to be lightweight.

Besides, most of the interesting science is on the ground, or under it, because that's where signs of water and potentially life are. For atmospheric science they might as well go with an orbiter, like MAVEN.

Edited by Karriz

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I'm puzzled why NASA seems so focused on ground rovers for Mars.

They have plans for a helicopter drone on Mars:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4457

It is intended to be a light, low flying scout drone to check things ahead of rovers before sending a rover over with proper scientific equipment.

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Let's not make this into a manned vs unmanned thread. There will be a time for a manned mission, but it'll be at least a decade after 2020.

I'm really interested in the sample return aspect, though it's pretty weird that they use the 2020 rover to store samples for a later mission.

Wouldn't it be simpler to do sample collection and MAV in a single mission? I suppose that would limit the amount of science instruments though.

I suppose the balloon would have to be very big, considering the thin atmosphere. It's a much bigger factor than the low gravity.

It could be done, but the payload would have to be lightweight.

Besides, most of the interesting science is on the ground, or under it, because that's where signs of water and potentially life are. For atmospheric science they might as well go with an orbiter, like MAVEN.

Understood the science is on/in the ground. From the air however, spotting things of potential interest would be a lot more convenient / productive, especially if you're just a meter or two or three above ground.

They have plans for a helicopter drone on Mars:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4457

It is intended to be a light, low flying scout drone to check things ahead of rovers before sending a rover over with proper scientific equipment.

This is more along the lines of what I would focus on. I thought balloon because it might work easier in thin atmosphere than helicopter blades; If they've got a solution for that, even better. Such a drone could perhaps lift and transport experiments to the sites of interest discovered and put them down there, maybe even to sites unreachable by rovers.

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You speak about groud Vs air, but what about underground exploration?

Some caves exists on Mars, and some are accessible from the surface.

https://caves.org/pub/journal/PDF/V74/cave-74-01-33.pdf

Would'nt these "protected area" (protected from the sun radiation, the high and low temperatures...) be of some interrest?

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